Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Value of Peer Support Networks in Recovery

In one of my classes, my main project is to create a mock research proposal studying one area of interest to me. I have decided to study the affects of peer support on recovery from addiction.

My theory is simple: I believe that people in recovery programs, such as alcoholics anonymous, have a much better chance of staying sober if they develop peer support groups that meet outside of the meeting. If people inside of the rooms can develop groups of friends from inside the rooms, and if these groups spend time together outside of meetings, all members will have a better chance of remaining sober.

This has certainly been true to some extent in my program. When I first came into the program, there were a group of us that would go out to dinner 4 or 5 nights a week. We would talk about life, about our challenges, and about what we had heard in the meeting that night. Occasionally we would do other activities, like going to hear live music or heading to the renaissance fair. And I always felt I could call these people in a pinch.

At about 4 months, my best friend in the program moved away, and the three women from the group decided to focus on spending time with other women. As my support network collapsed, it was only a couple weeks before I relapsed. This is not to say that it was anyone’s fault that I relapsed, but I think that the support network certainly helped me stay sober.

After my relapse, I developed a new support group which included people with varying lengths of sobriety. Now the old-timers were able to help people younger in the program, like myself. We helped each other, going to meals, reading together, hitting a wide variety of meetings, and always available to one another.

Another group of people I know came into the program at the same time, all of them in their late 20s or 30s. They go to meals, have small parties, celebrate anniversaries, and are there for each other all the time. Each 1 year anniversary has met with the whole group getting together to celebrate and support each other, and they are in constant communication.

In my first group, the 3 women just passed their one year anniversary. My best friend, who moved to Memphis, found his own group down there, and passed two years recently. Only I relapsed. In the new group that formed, all 6 of us have stayed sober since then. Despite some troubled times, we all have each other to lean on, and have remained sober. And in the other group mentioned, 11 people have passed the one year mark over the past 6 months, and none have relapsed.

Considering the statistics we hear in the room constantly, 1 in 35 people remaining sober in the program, it seems more than apparent that people with strong peer support networks are able to maintain their sobriety better than people who only spend time with other people in recovery while in the rooms.

Anyway, these are my observations, and I hope one day to show the importance of peer support networks, and to help people realize the importance of these networks in their programs. What do you think? How have these networks helped your program? I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

Posted by Scottage at 1:52 AM / | |